Monday, March 25, 2019

What Sailing and Flying have in common

For purposes of rapid skill acquisition, in his chapter on windsurfing, Josh Kaufman corrects a common misconception about the sail itself. It's not because wind fills the sail and pushes the boat along.
Sails work by creating differences in air pressure on the front and back of the sail. In most conditions, as air flows around the sail, the flow creates an area of low pressure in the front (toward the bow), and an area of high pressure in the back (toward the stern). The combined effect of these two different pressure zones creates a force that moves the craft in the direction of the low-pressure area. As a result, the wind pulls the sail as much as it pushes it. Airplane wings work much the same way.
The commonality with aviation is especially intriguing, and all the more so considering how long principles of aerodynamic pressure were used vertically on sail masts for thousands of years before being applied horizontally on airplane wings.

What enabled the key difference is in sailing the wind is the source of power while in flying the wind is a power to be overcome. It wasn't until the internal combustion engine was created that aviation was possible.

Is it just me or does this make anyone else wonder if we similarly have useful principles at work which applied on another axis or with some other perspective could open up an additional dimension of usefulness? On what do we depend that if we exceeded could create greater value?

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